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Slight Shift in Tone Detected in Failed United Nations Vote

December 19, 2001
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Despite the world’s seeming empathy for Israel since Sept. 11 and the recent spate of suicide bombings there, the United Nations remains deeply critical of Israel.

At the same time, observers detected a slight shift in attitude in the most recent resolution on Israel to be brought before the U.N. Security Council.

The resolution, which failed Saturday due to a U.S. veto, marked the first time that both Palestinians and Israelis were cited for acts of violence and terror, according to observers.

Britain and Norway abstained from the 15-member council vote.

Sponsored by Egypt and Tunisia, the resolution emphasized “the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians in the whole Middle East region,” and condemned “all acts of violence and terror resulting in the deaths and injuries among Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

Still, the resolution singled out the Jewish state, “reiterating the need for Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations,” without naming specific responsibilities of the Palestinians.

It also called for an international “monitoring mechanism” to help implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, which outlines a series of confidence-building measures, such as a halt to Jewish settlement expansion and disarming of Palestinian militants, to resume peace negotiations.

Israel has rejected any international role.

Calling the resolution a “manifestation of the long-standing policies of the Palestinians and Arab groups in the U.N.,” Israel’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Aaron Jacob, said its purpose was “to isolate Israel, to condemn Israel, to put the weight of the Security Council against Israel, to internationalize the conflict and to let the Palestinians evade responsibilities.”

In a statement to the Security Council, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, said, “The resolution before us fails to address the dynamic at work in the region” and that its purpose instead is to “isolate politically one of the parties to the conflict.”

The resolution marked the fourth time since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada 15 months ago that the Palestinians tried to obtain a vote in their favor through the U.N. Security Council, according to Jacob.

The first time, in October 2000, they succeeded when the United States abstained from a vote condemning Israel for its use of “excessive force.”

In December 2000 and March 2001, efforts to establish an international peacekeeping presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip failed.

In that sense, Saturday’s vote could be construed as positive, said Jacob, because this resolution was a watered- down version of previous drafts, and still failed.

He also noted that during the debate on the resolution, several countries called on Arafat to reign in Palestinian terrorists.

France also amended the draft to reach a more balanced resolution.

But Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said Saturday’s resolution was emblematic of the content and process of U.N. resolutions on Israel.

He described the “dance” as follows: “The Arab states will put forward a draft which is extreme and the U.S. will reject it out of hand, and the Europeans will step in and moderate the language so that it is still extreme, but less extreme.”

But it’s not balanced, he said, and it’s not a compromise: “It’s anti-Israel extremists negotiating with those who are ambivalent about Israel.”

Meanwhile, Jewish leaders praised the United States for its veto.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations lauded the Bush administration and Negroponte for his remarks, which faulted the resolution for making no specific mention of “the recent acts of terrorism against Israelis or those responsible for them” and called on Arafat to “take a strategic stand now against terrorism.”

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